Gaslight (1940)

Hollywood has a long history of taking some of the best European movies and remaking them for the domestic American market, usually also exporting the film to the country of origin, and many times resulting in the remake being seen as the “real” version.

Gaslight is a good example. Based on a stage play, this exquisite little British mystery takes place in a London house where a murder has been committed. A married couple move in after several years, but something is not right. The husband tries to make his wife believe she is insane, and he is hiding a terrible secret. A police investigator starts looking into the case, but will he find the truth in time?

Diana Wynyward and Anton Walbrook in Gaslight (1940)

It took only four years for it to be remade, and today it is mainly the remake that is remembered and considered a classic. In fact, MGM so much wanted their version to be the “proper” one that they included a clause in the contract that all copies of the original should be destroyed. Fortunately, they did not succeed. The 1944 remake is also available at the Internet Archive, but has very low resolution, so I must recommend the original foremost, if the IA is your only source.

It is an interesting and educational prospect to watch these two films back to back (preferably, I think, starting with the remake). They are respectively excellent examples of British and Hollywood 1940s productions, and even though the basic plot is the same, the two movies are very different. Not only in the details, but also in the entire build-up of the plot and the interplay between the main characters.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the Hollywood remake is uncommonly European. Not only does it retain its London setting (something rather unusual for Hollywood remakes), but it also has a British director, a French leading male, and a Swedish leading female.

The original is best enjoyed on its own merits. In spite of what I said about comparing the two versions, the original stands perfectly well on its own, and is in some ways the better of the two.

Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard in Gaslight (1940)

Gaslight
Download link
Year: 1940
Running time: 1 h 24 min
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Stars: Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard
Image quality: Good
Resolution: Medium (544×400)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: Cinepack (701 M)

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